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Posted at 01:15 PM ET, 07/24/2012

Ukraine proposes banning ‘gay’ films, and what that says about the country’s politics

A proposed measure in Ukraine would ban films such as “Brokeback Mountain” and any others that depict gay men or lesbians in a positive light, as well as gay pride parades, festivals or any other “promotion” of homosexuality.

The legislation would impose prison terms of up to five years and fines for spreading “propaganda of homosexuality,” the Associated Press reported.

The measure is one of three similar bills that aim to stamp out homosexual influence in the region. One of them, Draft Law No.10290, bans gatherings that disseminate positive messages about homosexuality in order to promote “the idea that a family consists of a union between a man and a woman,” according to Human Rights Watch.


A nationalist tries to attack an activist with the Ukrainian sexual minorities movement during a protest in Kiev on July 6 against a proposed bill that would ban the advocacy and promotion of homosexuality. (Sergei Supinsky - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“Pavlo Ungurian, one of the six lawmakers from various parties who authored the bill, told reporters Monday that growing acceptance of gay rights in the West is ‘not evolution, but degradation’ and needed to be fought,” the AP reported.

“Our goal is the preservation of the moral, spiritual and physical health of the nation,” Ungurian was quoted as saying. “We must stop the propaganda, the positive description and the publicity . . . of this abnormal lifestyle.”

The bills are expected to be voted on before parliamentary elections in October. It’s unusual for a bill in Ukraine to garner the support of six parties at once, said Vitaly Chernetsky, an associate professor of Russian at Miami University in Ohio.

“It’s a sign of the deep crisis of values and platforms for the many political parties in Ukraine,” he said. “They are trying to position themselves for elections without necessarily formulating a coherent platform of increasing prosperity or advancing integration with the rest of Europe.”

Some experts speculate that the spate of LGBT bills is meant to distract the public from the country’s economic woes and corruption issues head of the elections.

“This is intended to divert the electorate’s attention from corruption, economic problems and other things,” Chernetsky said.

If they do pass, the laws will be difficult to enforce uniformly, says Zoryan Kis, director of Tochka Opory, a Kiev LGBT rights group.

“The bill is very vague, and all the definitions are very poor. Propaganda or promotion itself is not very clearly defined,” he said. “It’s left up to the judge if someone is actually taken in by the police.”

But LGBT advocates told the AP they worry that the measures could suppress the dissemination of HIV-related information within Ukraine’s gay community, thereby potentially worsening the AIDS epidemic there. 

Ukraine decriminalized homosexuality in 1991, and was one of the first countries of the former Soviet Union to do so. Still, there has been a strong sentiment against homosexuality in the region. Kis said that his attempts to organize protests against the proposed bills have drawn only 20 or so participants at a time. A May gay pride parade drew 150 or so people, but activists were forced to disperse after being threatened with beatings by local soccer hooligans and other groups. 

“Shortly after the parade was cancelled, [Ukraine LGBT activist Svyatoslav] Sheremet was first doused with pepper spray, and then kicked in the head, legs and arms by a group of youths wearing surgical mask. They then stomped on his back,” the AP reported.  

In June, an unidentified man attacked Ukraine LGBT activist Taras Karasiichuk, asking him, “Are you a [homosexual] (pidor in Russian)?” and then kicked him in the head and jaw,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Other parts of the former Soviet Union have also seen an uptick in anti-gay activity. Earlier this year, St. Petersburg passed a law mandating fines of up to $33,000 for promoting homosexuality among minors, and a gay pride parade in the Georgian capital ended in a scuffle with opponents in March, the AP reported.

At the same time, prominent Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk and his wife have been organizing HIV/AIDS prevention programs in the country, bringing in figures such as Queen and Elton John for free concerts.

“It is very interesting to see how these famous figures do not generate the protests and anger, but ordinary rank-and-file gays and lesbians continue to bear the brunt of discrimination,” Chernetsky said.

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By  |  01:15 PM ET, 07/24/2012

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